Managing Career Transition

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”   For many lawyers, that dream involves a transition from one career to another or one practice area to another—and all the associated stress and anxiety.  Can I succeed outside my comfort zone?  Do I have the technical and educational skill sets to find viable employment in another capacity?  How will I manage my fears and expectations?  Take heart.  There are many things you can do to prepare for a career transition.

First, take stock of your career progress.  What are your five most significant achievements and defeats?  Which actions are you willing to own on your part that brought about those successes or failures?  You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been, as the saying goes.  Understanding what it is that brings about a successful result for you will give you the confidence to try new waters.  Conversely, finding your weak spots will show you what needs work to avoid making the same mistakes in a different milieu.  Do you need help identifying your strengths and weaknesses?  Try eliciting feedback from those who know you well.

Second, evaluate your skills.  Think in terms of organizational, problem-solving, managerial, and oral and written communication skill sets.  If you are transitioning to a career outside legal practice, note the environments in which these skills are deployed—at home, at work, in your community, etc.  Many skills are transferable.  Demonstrate a track record of success.

Third, build a transition plan.  Putting thoughts into words and words into actions will help you manage your anxiety.  How much do you know about your target occupation or practice area?  Where can you go to learn more?  Are there business or behavioral competencies you need to acquire to make it work?  Think about your future and imagine what you want it to look like.  How will that future look in five and ten years?

A new year is ripe with possibilities.  With a little introspection, you can retool your career to align with who you are or who you want to be.

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